Singer Pharrell Williams has recently made several uninformed comments about atheists and demonstrated a lack of intellectual rigor in basic philosophical argumentation.
Pharrell Williams, perhaps most famously tied to his hit song ‘Happy,’ has spoken with a UK magazine about atheists, his supernatural beliefs, and more topics. The Christian Post particularly reports on Williams’ statements on matters of religious belief and atheists quoting Williams saying, “How do you see the stars and think there is nothing else out there? It’s so incredibly arrogant and pompous. It’s amazing that there are people who really believe that. It’s unbelievable.” Williams’ argument is similar to ‘god of the gaps’ argumentation or, as Dr. David Kyle Johnson calls it, ‘mystery therefore magic.’
Just because a phenomenon is unexplained or not sufficiently understood does not mean that it is proper to suggest God is responsible. Why privilege the god explanation, anyway, particularly inserting a Christian god into the equation? Why not instead say, ‘I do not know?’
At best, Williams’ argument could be rephrased to a more sophisticated cosmological argument for God’s existence, but even then the argument has significant problems as I have explained as a follow-up to my 2013 debate with a Christian pastor Michael Brewster. If everything that exists must have an explanation, would not God need an explanation? Can we extrapolate our causal reasoning on what we have experience with here on earth to events we have no experience with (creation of universes) at a cosmological or quantum level? Can a simple ‘there has to be a cause’ lead to supposed truths within Christian belief?
Perhaps it is not the atheist who is arrogant in saying ‘I reject Christian belief because there is no good reason, argument, or evidence to support its supernatural claims,’ but rather the Christian who is arrogant when claiming they are especially loved by the creator of the universe, saying they know what the creator of the universe wants for them, claiming to have trivial prayers answered while people — their prayers unanswered — die of malnutrition and natural disasters, and claiming have ongoing communication with the creator of the universe. I am not a fan of advancing these claims, but note so only to point that the assertion of arrogance can cut both ways.
Williams also casts doubt as something not to be prized saying, “Every person who doubts is another person unconverted to better ways of thinking.” Doubt, rather than something to be lamented, is something to be prized…and happens to be antithetical to arrogance; the person who doubts is anything but arrogant because they are willing to change their beliefs given good reason, argument, and evidence and admit that they aren’t certain. If the atheist did not doubt, of course, there would be arrogance, but since there is doubt there may not be arrogance.
Pharrell Williams should keep to his musicmaking and cease from making uninformed philosophical comments which should even embarrass most Christians who — although I find their arguments lacking — can demonstrate far more philosophical rigor than Williams. Hopefully he is ‘happy’ to receive some feedback.
As always, feel free to comment below.